The Idle No More movement continues to try to have its voice heard locally by holding marches in the city.
The latest effort was Monday with a march which ended in the parking lot across from City Hall. The occasional rallying cheer could be heard in Council Chambers as City Council held its regular meeting.
Idle No More began in early October with four Saskatchewan women, Sylvia McAdam, Jess Gordon, Nina Wilson and Sheelah Mclean, who decided to oppose Bill C-45, the government’s omnibus budget implementation legislation, as a way to protest federal government treatment of indigenous peoples.
The movement gained national press attention when Theresa Spence, chief of the Attawapiskat (Ontario) First Nation began a hunger strike in December, which she vowed she would not break until Prime Minister Stephen Harper agreed to meet with her and other aboriginal leaders to discuss the issues.
While the hunger strike has ended, the movement remains alive, as Monday’s Yorkton march shows, and the group’s website noted they are planning a national and worldwide day of action Jan. 28.
“This day of action will peacefully protest attacks on democracy, Indigenous sovereignty, human rights and environmental protections when Canadian MPs return to the House of Commons on January 28th. As a grassroots movement, clearly no political organization speaks for INM. This movement is of the people for the people,” stated a release at www.idlenomore.ca
The statement about no political organization speaking for INM might be the most telling one in regards to their efforts.
It is difficult to affect change in Parliament, or in provincial legislatures without a voice within those institutions.
In general terms First Nations people have not been a united voice when it comes to going to the polls. While voter turnout is struggling to hold its own against a wave of general voter apathy, First Nations voting is generally below that of non-aboriginals.
That is not a way to promote a position with government, as parties tend to be influenced by the prospect of voter backlash which might mean the difference in their holding, or ascending to power.
Farmers know all too well that their declining numbers across the country have tended to strip their political clout with politicians knowing in only a few ridings could farmer votes make the difference.
Western Canadians are also keenly aware that in terms of power in Ottawa the decision is almost always made in the populace east, with votes west of the Ontario / Manitoba border simply filling up seats in the House of Commons.
Canada wide First Nations voters could be a formidable group, if they could get those eligible to vote to the polling booth en-masse with a single vision of what they desire, and which party would best deliver that.
A united front from a constituent group as large as First Nations people from coast-to-coast would be one political parties would have a difficult time ignoring.
While the tenacity of Idle No More is to be commended, and the idea of a grassroots movement having the potential to grow into a powerful voice is idealistic, becoming more directly involved in the politics of the nation by exercising their right to vote would go farther to affect change.
A voice inside Parliament is more easily heard than one on the front steps.